Stu Krieger crowdfunds his first novel and lands 260 preorders in less than 10 days
Author case study: That One Cigarette #book
Stu Krieger is most known for his produced credits, including the animated classic The Land Before Time for producers Steven Spielberg & George Lucas, and ten original movies for the Disney Channel, including Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century.
What most people don’t know about Stu is that he is also a Professor of screen and television writing at the University of California, Riverside’s Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production, and had been working on an alternate-history novel for the past seven years. That One Cigarette is the story of ordinary people generating extraordinary waves in the ocean of life.
Stu and Publishizer began talking about the idea of crowdfunding his first-ever novel after his TEDx talk in 2015. The idea was to match his book with the best publisher possible. He loved the idea that the more preorders he could obtain during a campaign the more publishers it would get in front of. Above sales, what matters to him more than advances and publishing deals is sharing his story. After decades of answering to the demands of the studio system, Stu is ready to write and produce something on his own terms.
In the weeks leading up to the book campaign, Stu carefully crafted personal emails which allowed him to obtain hundreds of loyal book subscribers. This was done right on his Publishizer campaign page, which made it convenient to notify people when the book would go live. These loyal subscribers would also be first in line to preorder and get some cool perks. Stu also was proactive in sending email updates about his progress during the campaign.
He also made his book trailer personal. It was just Stu in front of a camera explaining the book and asking his viewers to support him. The idea was to ask for a preorder and then share it with two friends. The video had 837 views within 24 hours, most of them from his Facebook group — which also grew from 0–200+ likes in a matter of days. Plus, more than 200 people read the first two chapters he shared on Medium.
Word was definitely getting out. And day 1 of his crowdfunding campaign would be the perfect time to ask for a preorder.
That One Cigarette launched on a Monday and quickly climbed in prerorders until surpassing the minimum goal. When they finally plateaued ten days later, the page showed 260+ preorders and Stu had already begun vetting interested publishers.
- Email subscribers: 510
- Students: 176
- Phone calls: 0
- Social media following: 205
- Result: 118% funded totaling $7,445 with 317preorders.
- Publisher: Harvard Square Editions
“If I have any advice to other authors, it’s to be nice to everybody you meet because some day you might want to sell them a book!” — Stu Krieger
Here’s what Stu Krieger had to say:
Q: How would you sum up your experience in one sentence?
An old dog learning lots of new tricks.
Q: Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?
I liked Publishizer’s business model and their willingness to educate me and work with me as the process unfolded.
Q: Why was now the right time to start this book project?
I’d actually been working on the project on-and-off for seven years but was determined to get it done in 2017 — and have been spurred toward meeting that goal by Publishizer’s interest.
Q: How did you plan to sell and publish your book before Publishizer?
I teach at the University of California, Riverside where a number of my colleagues are published authors so I planned to get advice and guidance from them once the book was complete.
Q: What results did you get from crowdfunding on Publishizer?
I set a goal of 250 pre-sales in 30 days and reached that goal in 10 days which was a wonderful surprise.
Q: How did you reach your goal? Details?
Having been in the entertainment business for more than 30 years and now having been teaching for the past ten years, I’m lucky enough to have a wide range of friends and contacts.
I started the outreach by writing targeted emails to specific groups, telling them about the project, why I thought the book was something they might enjoy and asking fortheir support. I followed up with a second email a week later.
Since I’m not a social media guy, I asked my former students and others to share the announcement on their social media and many did. Also, my son set up a Facebook page for the book which quickly garnered 205 likes so I’m sure that also helped.
After the first two weeks, I revised my mailing list to only include people that had not yet ordered the book so I wasn’t pestering those that had already placed their orders and sent them a “help me get across the finish line” email. I also posted updates on the Publishizer page and on the Facebook page.
Q: How much time did this entire process take you? On a weekly basis?
It’s fair to say I’ve been spending about five-six hours per week.
In total, I would say I’ve probably put in 20–25 hours doing the various mailings, research, Skype-chats with the Publishizer folks — and now following up with publishers that have reached out to me.
Q: Did posting sample chapters or excerpts on Medium help?
Yes. Many folks posted comments or wrote me emails to say that reading the chapters really got them excited to buy the book and they couldn’t wait to read more.
Read chapter 1 of That One Cigarette here.
Q: What was the most significant way you reached your goal?
Using the “I told two friends who told two friends…” method of spreading the word.
Q: What’s next for your book and for you?
My goal is to find a publisher and an editor in the near future so that I can polish and complete the manuscript when I take a sabbatical from teaching. By the end of that time, I hope to be able to deliver the final book.
Q: Are you happy with the amount of funds raised in your campaign? How do you plan to leverage those?
I feel this has been an incredibly satisfying start and am hoping I will find a publishing deal that’s the right balance of retaining certain rights to the book while working with someone who has the ability to get it out to the wider world beyond my own personal circle of fans. If I need to cover some upfront costs to strike that deal, that will be what the pre-sales will help fund. I’m also donating 50% of all eventual profits to a scholarship for screen & TV writers at UCR.
Q: Has your publishing goals changed since your successful crowdfunding campaign?
If anything, I feel like I have many more options than I otherwise might have been presented with so this has been a positive and productive experience. If I have any advice to other authors, it’s to be nice to everybody you meet because some day you might want to sell them a book!
If this resonates with you and the book you’re writing (or thinking of writing), we’d love to have you apply.